My Yorkshire: Charles Forgan
Charles Forgan is on the management committee of the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby. The 79-year-old businessman is married to Sophie, and they live in Great Broughton. They have a son and two daughters.
What’s your first Yorkshire memory?
My first and very enduring memory is of arriving as a National Serviceman when I was 18 years old, and being a squaddie at Catterick Garrison – we were a very mixed bunch of lads, from all over the UK, and the thing that made a huge impression on me was scrambling over a bluff in Swaledale, on the first time we ever went out on exercises. The others may have been thinking what an awful experience it was, but I just saw the beauty of the place.
What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?
The limestone of the Dales, and the North York Moors. The light is extraordinary, and, like the weather, it is constantly changing.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?
I’ve been a member of the Scramblers Club of Ilkley for more years than I care to remember, and I still enjoy meeting up with them when I can. The aim is to do a seven-mile walk somewhere in the morning, meet up in a nice pub for lunch, and then walk for another three miles back to a convenient car park.
Do you have a favourite walk – or view?
There’s no road to it, or easy access, but when you get to Tripsdale (just off Bilsdale), you have found one of the most special places in Yorkshire. Simply glorious, especially when the heather or bracken is in full glory. We used to go in August to pick the abundant bilberries. Happy memories.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?
May I extend an invite to two? The first would be the mighty Brian Blessed, whose boom would tell me that he had arrived about a mile before he got to the table, and the other is Dame Judi Dench, in whose presence I would be, I confess, terrified. She always puts me in mind of Elizabeth I – except that Dame Judi has a little twinkle in her eye.
If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?
The deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy, on the chalk cliff of the Wolds. It’s a little bit of a hike down from the car park, but once you get there, it is quite stunning in its mystery and its beauty, and you can almost touch the past as you stand in the ruins of the church – the outlines of the streets can be seen in the fields around.
If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be?
It’s an illustration, in pen and wash, of Cook’s ship Resolution in a stream of pack ice, created by one of the Captain’s colleagues, William Hodges. It’s on display at the museum and it is beautiful, simply executed, and it tells its story perfectly.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?
The landscapes and also the people, who have a great warmth and dignity, and a sense of pride that is not discovered elsewhere.
Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?
Whenever the Tour de Yorkshire comes around, yes indeed. When it last came to Whitby, we hoisted a bicycle onto the museum roof, and one of our team – dressed as Captain Cook – got up there, astride it, and waved for the helicopter above and to the crowds below.
Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?
Mr. Chips in Whitby is right opposite our front door, and they have good food and unfailing service. Run by lovely people, and if we ever have to take visitors for something to eat, what could be better – right on the doorstep.
Do you have a favourite food shop?
Lewis and Cooper in Northallerton takes a lot of beating, a wondrous store that seems to stock just about everything that is delicious and mouth-watering.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?
The standards and ambitions of the pubs and restaurants have improved beyond belief, and the quality of the food is first rate – so much these days is sourced from within the county, which is remarkable. And organisations like Welcome to Yorkshire have had a remarkable impact on tourist footfall.
If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be?
The quality of education these days leaves a great deal to be desired. I was shocked to find that, compared to many schools across Europe and in the Far East, we lag way behind in educational achievement.
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?
Captain James Cook, for his incredible skills, achievements, and strength of character.
Has Yorkshire influenced your work?
Very much so, especially my time as CEO of Bradford Breakthrough Ltd which taught me so much about dealing with the public sector, skills that are invaluable.
Who is your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer?
David Hockney, for his vast range of works, but in particular for his vision of the Wolds. It isn’t often that it happens, but those masterly paintings made me see familiar things in a whole new light and perspective.
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?
Apart from our museum in Grape Lane? York. For so many things, the great Minster, dozens of beautiful medieval churches, Jorvik, the National Rail Museum, the Castle Museum, Fairfax House, the little lanes and snickets.
Whitby in the Time of Cook: The Making of a Great Seaman is the special exhibition at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby until November 4. 01947 601900, cookmusuemwhitby.co.uk